Wine Regions

Central Otago, New Zealand Wine Region

Central Otago vineyards are the world’s most southerly, enjoying a unique, continental New Zealand environment that is both hot and and dry in summer,…

Central Otago vineyards are the world’s most southerly, enjoying a unique, continental New Zealand environment that is both hot and and dry in summer, and bracing cool and snowy in winter. Central Otago wineries are located in one of the world’s most scenic wine regions, with Central Otago wine produced at elevation, in and amongst towering snow-capped mountain ranges, and rivers set deep in gorges.


Central Otago wineries are famed for Pinot Noir, and indeed, Central Otago Pinot Noir is often spoken about as some of the best in the world. The map of Central Otago wine region shows distinct yet proximate sub-regions of Wanaka, Gibbston, Bannockburn, Alexandria, Bendigo and Cromwell/Lowburn/Pisa Range.


Central Otago wine is made up primarily of Central Otago Pinot Noir, but Central Otago best wineries are also producing Central Otago Riesling, alongside Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sparkling wine, and to a lesser extent, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and other aromatic white grape varieties.

Get to Central Otago

Central Otago fine wines are best accessed via the central hub of Queenstown, with regularly scheduled airline carriers servicing domestic and international flights. From Queenstown in Central Otago region, driving is an ideal way of exploring Central Otago wineries.

Climate and style in Central Otago

Central Otago weather is typically hot and sunny in summer and very cold in winter. The growing season is considered long and slow, though ripening and sunshine hours intensifies the concentration of Central Otago Pinot Noir, with power and richness a hallmark.


The extremes in climate impact on the distinct character of wines from Central Otago vineyards, with inky concentration, macerated cherry and berry fruit character, herbs and spice complexity, and often higher alcohols all distinct in Central Otago Pinot Noir.


Central Otago wineries working with Chardonnay and aromatic grape varieties like Central Otago Riesling find bright yet concentrated white wines of high aromatic spectrum, citrusy-mineral laced acidity, and great intensity of flavour.

Key Central Otago Varietals

Central Otago wineries work predominately with Central Otago Pinot Noir, though many Central Otago fine wines are made from Chardonnay, or produced with both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to make Sparkling wines. Central Otago wine makes up under 3% of all production in New Zealand. While Central Otago Pinot Noir is the flagship variety of the Central Otago region, Central Otago best wineries also work with aromatic white grape varieties with great success.

Central Otago Pinot Noir

Central Otago Pinot Noir has an international reputation for high-class, long-lived wines of great regional character. Central Otago fine wines produced from Pinot Noir are typically high in perfume, rich in flavour, often higher in alcohol and power than many other Pinot Noir-focused regions, and enjoy tense structure and satiny-plush texture. While Central Otago Pinot Noir has a general feel, there are significant differences in the Central Otago wine regions various sub-regional examples.

Central Otago Wineries

A map of Central Otago NZ will show approximately 2000 hectares of land planted to vineyards. Central Otago wineries were led by regional pioneers, Chard Farm, Rippon, Black Ridge and Gibbston Valley, who in the early days of the Central Otago wine regions were considered ‘mad’ for planting and making wine in such an extreme location and climate.


Central Otago wineries of note now include a raft of high profile Central Otago wine producers, including Felton Road Wines, Mount Edward, Amisfield, Desert Heart, Akarua Winery, Aurora Vineyard, Brennan Wines, Carrick Wines, Burn Cottage Wines, Coal Pit, Doctors Flat Vineyard, Domain Road Vineyard, Grasshopper Rock, Judge Rock Vineyard, Lowburn Ferry, Maude Wines, Mt Difficulty, Quartz Reef, Peregrine Wines, Rockburn, Shaky Bridge Wines, and Terra Sancta. And with a touch of glamorous notoriety, NZ-based Hollywood actor Sam Neill of The Piano and Jurassic Park fame owns and operates Two Paddocks wines out of Gibbston Valley. The Ribbon Hills range is available exclusively through Cellarmasters.

The future of Central Otago

Central Otago wineries are in a privileged position with their global reputation founded on the strength of Central Otago fine wines, particularly Central Otago Pinot Noir. Blessed with incredible scenery, great food and wine culture, and a thrilling wine tourism experience based out of tourist magnet Queenstown, Central Otago vineyards are easy to access and wonderful to visit. This, and increasingly quality of grower-producer wines, are enhancing a formidable baseline for excitement with Central Otago wine.

File under:

  • Central Otago
  • Pinot Noir
  • Cool Climate